In a demographic report from 2017, statistics show that one in five Canadians aged 15 and above – roughly 6.2 million individuals – have one or more disabilities that have direct impacts on mental and/or physical health. Despite the obstacles that disabilities may present, persons with disabilities can be educated and highly motivated, and able to perform tasks as, or even more, effectively as non-disabled applicants. Still, the study found that people aged 25 to 64 years old with disabilities are less likely to be employed (59%) than similar applicants that do not classify any disabilities (80%).
To help improve and increase opportunities for persons living with disabilities, Canadian employers can access government funding support to help accommodate and transform the job market to be more inclusive for all.
For many years now, the Government of Ontario has been identifying and endorsing ways to improve unemployment rates among people with disabilities. As such, the Ontario government continues to urge and support small and medium-sized businesses to hire workers that have identified disabilities to improve economic opportunities for all, reduce discrimination, and invest in enhanced workplace development initiatives.
Addressing Ontario’s High Unemployment Rates for Persons with Disabilities
There are many types of qualifying disabilities in Canada, including physical or mental conditions related to mobility, sight, hearing, learning, dexterity, pain, development, and psychological disorders. Over 15% of Ontario’s population identifies with one or more of these categories.
Hiring an individual with a disability may seem like a risk to some business owners, however, employers are forgetting to see the ‘able’ within the word disabled.
In June 2017, the Government of Ontario announced a multi-tier employment strategy to improve unemployment rates among the province’s disabled community. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act main objectives include:
- Developing additional employment opportunities for disabled youth;
- Integrating and co-ordinating employment services by taking more of a supported employment approach;
- Ensuring the Government of Ontario takes a proactive role in hiring disabled workers; and
- Accommodate Ontario’s growing population.
If successful, the strategy will create 56,000 new jobs and reduce the number of unemployed Ontarians with a disability by 30%.
Government Funding for Hiring and Accommodating Workers with Disabilities
To make it easier for employers to support the government’s goals, Ontario offers funding for employers to help businesses reduce the cost of expanding their workforce while helping to increase opportunities for all. Currently, here are a few funding programs specifically designed to help offset the cost of hiring Ontarians with disabilities:
- The Ontario Disability Support Program: Employers earn $1,000 when the applicant completes a 6-week placement, an additional $6,000 when they complete 13 weeks, and a further 60% of the employee’s salary for up to an extra 33 consecutive months; or
- The Enabling Accessibility Fund: Eligible organizations can receive up to $100,000 for small construction, renovation or retrofit of existing spaces to improve accessibility, accessible information, and communication technologies
Businesses Can Access Funding for Training Initiatives
The Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG) also provides training grants to help employers invest in workforce development initiatives. This funding program is available for both training to assist employees with disabilities and to improve the employability of a business’ workforce.
Eligible businesses in Ontario can access this government funding to enhance their labour force by utilizing training and education for new/existing employees, including those with disabilities. These small business grants can be used to offset external training programs that lead to operational and productivity improvements.
Eligible employers can access up to 66%-83% of eligible training costs to a maximum $10,000 in Ontario government grants per trainee.
How to Apply for Funding
To get started with COJG, businesses must submit an application that includes a business overview, detailed training plans, training impacts, and vendor quotes. Within the application, businesses must identify all trainees by title and how the training will impact their role within the company. Applications can be reviewed and approved in as little as 2-4 weeks.
Learn More About Government Funding for Your Business
Interested businesses may contact Mentor Works to learn more about any of these hiring grants and determine whether their business is eligible to apply for government funding to offset costs of hiring and/or training persons with disabilities.
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